By John Olajide
No one succeeds on their own.
That’s why when I was given the opportunity to be “Principal for a Day” at Kennedy-Curry Middle School more than three years ago, I took it without hesitation.
By the end of that demanding day, after learning what it takes to run a school in Southern Dallas with an enrollment of about 800 students, I came away with a profound respect for the tremendous responsibilities shouldered by principals every day.
I was so inspired that I agreed to literally open the doors of Axxess to these students, so they could get a firsthand look at what can be possible in their futures – and our doors have remained open.
Every year, we invite dozens of the school’s students into our North Dallas office, where they can get hands-on experience in various fields and test their skills as engineers, app developers, healthcare professionals, graphic designers, human resource professionals and more. Our team members talk with students about what courses they took, their career journey and what they did to eventually earn a place at Axxess.
Our company is an especially good place for students to visit because they are exposed to professionals in healthcare, computing, human resources, law, engineering, marketing, public relations, finance and more. This is so much better than the traditional career day, where adults just tell students about where they work – the students get to experience the work it firsthand.
More importantly, students get to see how our employees work and play as a team. They see who we are – a diverse group of people just like them, who get excited about doing great things. Visiting our office gives students something to aspire to beyond the classroom. In fact, more than a few Kennedy-Curry Middle School students have told us that the time they spent at Axxess made them think differently about their schoolwork and that they now take it more seriously.
You might be wondering what Axxess gets out of this. In short, our employees get to be an inspiration to others. We get to spend time with a lot of students who just need a chance, and I have no doubt they will be the future leaders of tomorrow. Playing a role in inspiring them to dream big makes what we do every year seem that much more important.
I encourage all business and community leaders to take part in the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Principal for a Day program.
John Olajide is President and CEO of Axxess, the fastest growing home healthcare technology company, which has partnered with DISD’s Kennedy-Curry Middle School since fall 2014. Enrollment for the DRC’s Principal for a Day program begins Wednesday, August 9. If you are interested in participating, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Treveon Washington, a senior at South Oak Cliff High School, is one of several high school seniors participating in Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program. To learn more about the program, click here.
by Treveon Washington, Mayor’s Intern
Starting my first two weeks in the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program, I thought I would start in an office. But instead, I started off in a camp. This isn’t just any camp: it’s Future Focus!
What is Future Focus? Well, it’s a career-readiness camp that helps young scholars plan for their future after high school and college. During these two weeks, I learned how to never give up, to keep going, to always have faith, and how to work in the big business world.
I met students who attended other schools, grew up in different parts of the state and some of whom weren’t born in the U.S. I also had the opportunity to meet CEOs, CFOs, presidents, and vice presidents of six companies. Among the businesses and organizations I toured were Dallas City Hall, JPMorgan Chase, Methodist Dallas Medical Center, TD Industries, GEICO, and AT&T.
During my tour of Dallas City Hall, I had the chance to meet defense attorneys who work hard to win each case on behalf of the City of Dallas. At Methodist Hospital Dallas, I learned that the health care system has a lot to offer. I had the chance to meet one of the health care system’s surgeons, a pharmacist, a radiologist, and several other health care professionals. Visiting GEICO was amazing. My time at the company’s Dallas corporate office gave me a better understanding about insurance policies and insurance fraud.
The thing that stands out most to me about the leaders I met from each of these organizations is the way that they all encouraged us to be great, to not give up in life, and to always go the extra mile. It’s great to realize that there are people in this world who genuinely care about my success.
Future Focus was an amazing experience for campers. In addition to the company visits, my favorite part of Future Focus was the college fair, which gave me a chance to expand my college choices and get more information about those colleges.
The opportunity to meet new, successful people at a variety of companies was a great experience; I would gladly experience Future Focus again just to relive those moments. Future Focus didn’t just give me something to do for two weeks, it gave me something that I will cherish for life.
by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Though the Dallas Region’s health care industry’s appetite for workers is voracious, expectations for workers are increasing, from entry-level kitchen workers to administrative staff.
A panel of health care experts assembled by the Dallas Regional Chamber agrees: current and future workers in the health care industry must be renaissance men and women, with feet firmly planted in delivering compassionate patient care, while embracing constant change in technologies, regulations and innovations. A recorded taping of the event by Dallas County Community College District is below.
That was the consensus reached April 20 at the Chamber’s Health Care Industry Convening, which included panelists from a cross section of disciplines within the industry, from non-profit caregiving, to banking, to data analysis.
“I’d say 99.5 percent [of our staff members] are impacted by technology, from physicians and nurses, to administrators down to housekeepers and food and dietary people,” said Felicia Miller, Chief Human Resources Director for Dallas-based Tenet Health, which delivers patient care across 47 states, through about 130,000 employees. Miller said some of the hardest positions for Tenet to fill are facilities engineers, who must manage some buildings that are 50 years or older, while still mastering digital technology at work at its newest facilities.
Panelists agreed that smaller health care providers are still hiring job candidates who have certificates and associate’s degrees, but workers who want to advance professionally, especially in larger institutions, need to obtain four-year degrees and beyond. Workers should also be capable writers, especially when it comes to helping their institutions obtain grants, they added.
Beyond obtaining academic and training credentials, health care workers must master so-called “soft-skills” – the ability to effectively and empathetically interact with other people while serving or working with them. Many panelists said it’s key to develop those skills early in professional careers.
“There are people with good communication skills, but usually, they are… good at talking to people who are like them,” said Kristin Jenkins, Senior Vice President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. “This (caring for patients) takes more. This takes being able to connect with people who are not like you and who are not from your background. Because the work that we do includes so many diverse people and populations, that is very important.”
The industry experts also recommended that individuals interested in pursuing careers in health care should get involved in customer service or in some aspect of health care as early as possible.
Jenkins, for example, suggested that younger prospective employees should even wait tables, work retail or serve consumers in some other way, to learn the art of making customers happy.
Freda Wright, Vice President of Managed Care for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, encouraged those interested in health care careers to work in supporting capacities in the industry, such as at the front desk of a hospital office, where they can learn about hospital operations and the nuances of various insurance plans.
Panelist Barry Haley, Senior Treasury Solutions Manager for Health Care and Institutions for Bank of America, said that extended care industry is always looking for help in patient care.
“It’s a good way to dip your toe in the water, to understand the mission side,” Haley said.
Seeing health care operations at the ground level can help employees from all aspects of health care appreciate their end-goal of helping patients, panelists said. And, in inverse, it’s important for staff to understand their organization’s overall business picture as well.
Tenet Health’s Felicia Miller recalled her early experiences in caring for others, with her mother.
“My mother was a psychiatric social worker,” Miller said. “Early on, I had to deliver food [to people] under bridges. And Christmas toys. And give up things I didn’t want to give up, but needed to give up, for charity. I think it teaches the very fundamentals of health care and what health care’s about.”
Along those lines, panelists said the health care industry is especially in need of behavioral and psychiatric specialists.
Taking part in solving problems and innovating are also becoming crucial for health care industry employees, panelists said.
Axxess home health care software company Vice President of Human Resources Melody Lenox said teachers must encourage students to independently resolve problems and to be curious, independent thinkers.
“We want students really looking to… think about new ways to solve a problem,” she said. “That’s a skillset that can be stifled in an education system.”
“Curiosity and asking questions are very important,” she added. “If you have someone who’s curious, they’re going to ask you, ‘Why?’ If they understand why, they can help you sustain the innovation you have or help you solve a problem you might not know you had.”
From a purely technical standpoint, panelist Nicole Chisolm, a program evaluation director for Prism Health North Texas, said health care institutions are in need of two types of coders: software coders and individuals who, in the medical billing process, assign billing codes relating to health care administered to patients.
Software coders are especially helpful because they can help institutions measure their effectiveness, she said.
“Everything is so focused on outcomes and measureable successes, no matter what role you’re in,” Chisolm said. “If you’re in finance, you’re looking at cost efficiencies. If you’re in project management, you’re looking at efficient use of time and resources.”
The Chamber held the convening, sponsored by Bank of America, as part of its mission of working with educators and employers to help create better career options for students and to establish a highly trained workforce for the Dallas Region’s economy.
University of Texas Chancellor William H. McRaven told members of the Dallas Regional Chamber that education leaders in Texas are combining to make headway in resolving the issue of allowing credits earned through high schools and community colleges, to transfer to two-year and to four-year institutions.
“We need to make sure that when these courses are taken in community colleges, that we have transfer and affiliation agreements, so that we know everybody understands what the pathway looks like,” McRaven said, speaking at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s March 24 State of Higher Education forum at The Fairmont Hotel in Downtown Dallas. “So that everybody understands that if a course is not going to apply to an (UT) Arlington, or a (UT) Dallas, they need to know that right up front.”
According to McRaven, one important effort in that direction will be the creation of a high school duel-credit task force that will help assure that the course credits high school and community college students are earning will be more broadly accepted at other institutions of higher learning. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is establishing the task force along with the Texas Education Agency and community colleges, he said.
“What we learned early on was that a lot of kids coming out of high school were just not ready for college,”said McRaven, a retired U.S. Navy four-star admiral. “So, we got together with TEA, and the coordinating board, and the campuses,” he said. “Because that was an area where we could move the needle.”
McRaven, who is implementing an eight-point “quantum-leap” plan to improve education in Texas, made those statements in a fireside-chat style discussion with Dallas education policy expert William McKenzie, Editorial Director at the George W. Bush Institute.
McRaven said the duel-credit issue is crucial to Texas’ initiative to have 60 percent of its workforce to hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2030 (referred to as the 60X30TX higher education strategic plan).
“If you want to make sure we’re the most educated population in the nation by ‘Year X,’ then we’ve got to make sure that we understand everything from transferability of credit hours, the duel credit and how it applies to student readiness, we have to understand how we work with independent school districts to prepare their students to be college ready,” McRaven said. “I know they’re doing that. That has to continue, and we’ve got to double-down on that. Higher ed can’t stay in its own silo, and say we’re just going to have the best higher ed system. That doesn’t work.”
“I think we’ve had tremendous success with our community colleges,” McRaven said, adding that he has a sister who sits on the Austin Community College Board. “It is a partnership (with higher education) that we need to strengthen as much as we can. The issue of transferability is something we need to work on.”
Other issues McRaven brushed upon:
The importance of higher education
“How can too much education be a bad thing? I don’t understand that… I was at a Bloomberg interview in New York City, and there was a higher ed reporter and a national security reporter. He said, ‘I want to know what’s the number-one national security issue.’ I said it’s pre-K through 12. My point to him was, if we don’t start educating our young men and women to be able to think critically, to be prepared to go to college, to have a liberal – in the classic sense of a liberal college education, and a liberal understanding of the world at large – if we don’t teach them these things at a very young (age), if they’re not reading level by the time they’re in third or fourth grade, the chances of them getting to college are very, very difficult. If we don’t solve that problem as a nation, we will have all sorts of issues that we won’t be able to solve in the future… and a lot of them will be national security issues, because we will have an uneducated population that will not know how to solve the issues that are outside our borders.”
Affordability of higher education
“People talk about how higher education is too costly. That is a narrative that we’ve got to stop. The average debt in the University of Texas system is about $22,000. Twenty-two thousand dollars: the cost of a bachelor’s degree. That’s the price of a small car, and by the way, it doesn’t depreciate. And about 67 percent of our students get some kind of financial help. Education is not too expensive. We talk about the trillion dollars in student debt, and I got it. But individual students aren’t bearing a trillion dollars in debt. It’s a problem nationally. But I’ve got to tell you, the public institutions in the state of Texas are the best bargains in the world, bar none.”
The Dallas Regional Chamber held the March 24 State of Higher Education event as part of its mission of working with educators and employers to help create better career options for students, and to establish a highly trained workforce for the Dallas Region’s economy.
The State of Higher Education was presented by The Broaddus Companies, and supported by silver sponsors EY, Oncor, and The University of Texas-Arlington.
By Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Representatives from nearly two dozen Dallas Region companies with strong software development components gathered to discuss the skills and attributes most in demand in their industry at a roundtable discussion organized by the Dallas Regional Chamber on Jan. 24. Their consensus: Companies in the Dallas Region are in immediate need of software developers for projects they’re rolling out right now. While representatives from larger companies said they still expect job candidates to hold four-year degrees, smaller firms indicated they wouldn’t turn away individuals who hold relevant developer certifications in areas such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Salesforce, or even strong object-oriented programming skills. Both large and small firm representatives agreed that their ideal job candidates would have strong problem-solving skills, a willingness to learn new aptitudes to meet company objectives, and individuals who will readily work within a team. They also agreed that a proposed 2017 Texas Education Association list of software certifications is dated and in need of additional in-demand certifications. Some educators who attended the discussion said they have a strong need for industry-experienced developers who could teach in-demand skills on their campuses.
Video recorded by and provided courtesy of Dallas County Community College District
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